Town of Milton concerned over potential costs of business route

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Neil Johnson
Monday, May 19, 2014

MILTON—As the city of Milton tries to gain support for a proposed business route city officials say would help motorists find downtown, concerns are emerging over road maintenance costs tied to the plan.

The city is asking the town of Milton, Rock County and the state Department of Transportation for approval and support of a city petition to place signs along the Highway 26 corridor between the Highway 59 interchange and County N north of Milton.

Officials say the signs would designate the exits as access points to “Business Highway 26,” a proposed 4.5-mile stretch of Janesville Street—the former Highway 26—that runs between the Highway 59 and County N.

The state would pay to install the signs and the city would maintain them.

Town Chairman Bryan Meyer said some town board members are concerned a business route designation would funnel a heavy amount of traffic onto a road that may be more expensive for the town to maintain than most other roads it is responsible for.

The town must sign off on the city's request because a nearly three-mile stretch of Janesville Street between the north end of Milton and County N is now a town road.

The Rock County Board Public Works Committee has recommended the county board approve the city's request for signs, and the county board could vote on the issue Thursday.

The DOT also has approved the plan with the provision that local municipalities support it.


Meyer said the town appreciates the city's need for a business route, but some town board members have concerns about ongoing maintenance costs for its stretch of Janesville Street, which the town has renamed North Milton Road.

Prior to the state turning over Milton Road to the town, the stretch was categorized as a Class A road able to handle the heaviest traffic. The DOT already had slated improvements to the road, which is paved concrete. Those improvements will come this summer.

In the future, the town will be responsible for road improvement costs.

Although the town has not yet designated or posted its portion of Janesville Street as a Class B road, a designation which would limit large truck traffic from traveling on it, Meyer said it had asked the DOT earlier to “tear up” the road, which is paved in concrete, and replace it with asphalt. That could make future repairs less expensive for the town, he said.

“The state was not willing to do that,” Meyer said

Before the bypass opened, Janesville Street saw between 10,000 and 13,000 vehicles a day. Now it sees as few as 1,300 to 1,000 vehicles a day, according to a city traffic study.

Meyer said it's not clear yet what additional volume of traffic the proposed business route could generate, or whether that amount of traffic would create a future burden on the town's budget.

He said town officials want to further discuss with the city the potential traffic impacts, and potential solutions.      

“We want to discuss what the city has in mind to mitigate the town's concerns. It's maintenance costs,” Meyer said.

Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said if North Milton Road/Janesville Street were designated as a business route, it would take time to collect data on traffic impacts.

But he said he believes the number of vehicles on the business route would be significantly lower compared to before the bypass.

“We're hoping a business route would drive people into downtown, to businesses in the city—that's the purpose of a business route. But it would be premature to say that all 13,000 cars that used to pass through (Milton) before the bypass, that all those vehicles would instantly take the (proposed) business route over the bypass,” Schuetz said.

Schuetz said he understands that upgrades the state is planning this year on Milton Road could withstand decades of use before the town would need to do substantial upgrades.

“I don't see that the change (in traffic patterns) with a business route would be so dramatic that the town would be looking at every other year in terms of substantial maintenance costs,” Schuetz said.

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